Book Review: Plain Jane

review-cover-plain jane

Title: Plain Jane

Author: Fern Michaels

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery, Paranormal

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Back in college, Jane Lewis would have given anything to be like homecoming queen Connie Bryan. Instead, she was just Plain Jane – overweight, frumpy and painfully shy. That was then. Today, a lovely and confident Dr. Jane Lewis has a thriving psychotherapy practice, her own radio talk show, a beautiful old Louisiana mansion, and her affectionate, nutty dog, Olive, to keep her company. The only thing missing is someone to share her life.

Jane has never forgotten Michael Sorenson, the boy she had admired from afar in college. Now, he’s inspiring her to hope for a future together. She’s also never forgotten the brutal, unsolved attack that ended Connie Bryan’s life – and that haunts her still. Suddenly, the present collides with the past, as Jane finds clues into the identities of Connie’s attackers – clues that send her into a world of risk and excitement, challenging her to become a truly extraordinary woman . . . if she dares.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

For me, Plain Jane by Fern Michaels fell into a hazy gray area of books that I sometimes like to refer to with such phrases as “Meh.” or “Mixed-Bag”. It wasn’t a great book, but it wasn’t horrible either. Technically speaking, the writing was grammatically correct, punctuated appropriately, and most of the time retained a pretty steady pace throughout. With the exception of one error that I found (Page 207, Line 31), this was a clean, well-written read. Unfortunately, the author’s style just wasn’t my cup of tea.

The narrative had a very “cozy” voice to it that’s hard to describe other than to say it lacked tension. The characters were a bit happy-go-lucky and over-dramatic at times, but very little seemed to go wrong for them. Even in moments where the characters should have been terrified or grief stricken, I knew they were going to be okay. I never feared for them, and I never felt bad for them. I wish the author had done more to amp up the tension in the book. Considering the very serious topic of rape, I was expecting the mystery and tension surrounding Connie’s death to be a little more…tense for lack of a better word. Instead, it felt like watching a children’s cast performing a dramatic disaster scene. I just couldn’t take it as seriously as I wanted to.

That isn’t to say that the story was all bad though. Even lacking tension, the mystery and suspense surrounding Connie’s rape and subsequent death was one of the most captivating aspects of the book. I wanted to know what had happened to her and how the event had been orchestrated. I almost wish the entire book had revolved more around the mystery rather than wandering off on tangents about ghost dogs, an old author couple retiring to train k-9’s and Jane’s really-$h!tty feud with the snottiest therapist I’ve ever had the misfortune to read.

The book was a bit busy for me, and lacked good tension. It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t great. In the end it was “okay”. Would I read it again? No. It was good for wasting an afternoon, but it’s not a book that would spur me on to read more from the author. In the end, it just wasn’t the kind of romance book I enjoy. I like my romances filled with passion, tension-filled moments, and relationships that overcome insurmountable odds. That isn’t what I got with this. The romance was lukewarm, and I felt the need to skip the sex scenes once Jane started shouting: “Take me, take me now!” Just.. no. I’d recommend this book to romance readers who want their novels sweet and cozy, and their mysteries puzzling but not too scary. It’s unfortunate that this wasn’t the type of book I enjoy, but I have no doubt that there will be some readers out there that will inevitably love this book. It just wasn’t for me.

Trigger Warning: There is mention of rape in this book. However the act is not described in great detail (though the attack is written into the book from a bystander POV). I didn’t find it offensive, but it could serve as a trigger to some people who’ve experienced similar trauma.

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